Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve

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Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon whiskey
Pappy Van Winkle.JPG

Pappy Van Winkle
TypeBourbon whiskey
ManufacturerSazerac Company
Country of originKentucky, United States
Alcohol by volume45.20%
Related productsBuffalo Trace
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Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon whiskey
Pappy Van Winkle.JPG

Pappy Van Winkle
TypeBourbon whiskey
ManufacturerSazerac Company
Country of originKentucky, United States
Alcohol by volume45.20%
Related productsBuffalo Trace

Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve is the flagship brand of bourbon whiskey owned by the "Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery" company (which does not actually own or operate a distillery, but rather has it produced under a contract with another company). It is distilled and bottled by the Sazerac Company at its Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky.[1] Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve is often regarded as one of the finest bourbons in the world, and is rare to find on the market due to its very low production and high demand.[2][3][4]


In 1893, when he was 18 years old, Julian "Pappy" Van Winkle, Sr. began working as a salesman for the liquor wholesaler, W.L. Weller & Sons. Fifteen years later, he and another Weller salesman bought the firm. In 1910 they acquired the A. Ph. Stitzel Distillery in Louisville, Kentucky, which had started as a sour mash whiskey distillery in 1872.[5]

The Stitzel Distillery supplied much of the whiskey sold by the Weller wholesale firm. The consolidation coincided with prohibition during which time the Stitzel-Weller firm was licensed by the government to produce whiskey for medicinal purposes. One of their labels that was introduced on the market just before prohibition was Old Rip Van Winkle.[1] After prohibition, the brand was not reintroduced until after 1972 when the Stitzel-Weller distillery and its current brand names (including W.L. Weller, Old Fitzgerald, Rebel Yell, and Cabin Still) were sold to other companies.[1] The only brand name to which the Van Winkle family kept the rights was the pre-prohibition brand Old Rip Van Winkle.[1]

The Stitzel-Weller plant was opened on the day of the Kentucky Derby in 1935, just outside Louisville in Shively, Kentucky. At the time of his death in 1965 at the age of 89, Pappy Van Winkle was the oldest active distiller in the nation. A photo of him graces the bottle's label.[3][6][7]

Sometime after the Stitzel-Weller distillery was sold in 1972, Julian Van Winkle, Jr. resurrected the pre-prohibition Old Rip Van Winkle brand and initially used old whiskey stocks from the distillery for its bottlings.[1] Julian Jr. died in 1981 and Julian Van Winkle, III (Pappy's grandson)[8] took over the Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery company.

After the initial sale in 1972, the Stitzel-Weller distillery was eventually closed completely in 1991.[9] In 1984, Buffalo Trace distillery commercially marketed the first single-barrel bourbon, Blanton's.[3]

Since 2002, the Van Winkle brands have been distilled and bottled by the Sazerac Company at the Buffalo Trace Distillery as a joint venture with the Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery company.[1]

As there is very little left of product from the Stitzel-Weller distillery, a company source (namely Preston Van Winkle), opines that the 2013 vintage "may be the last of its kind", although disavowing that the 23-year-old aged branded whiskey will be discontinued.[5][10] The makers say that they do not want to boost production, as there is considerable long term risk, and they do not want to be left holding copious quantities of unsaleable bourbon should tastes, fashions or circumstances change.[11]

The product has a cult-like following.[12][13] Famous chefs (e.g., Sean Brock and David Chang) favored the product. Food Republic reported that Chef John Currence said: "There’s Pappy Van Winkle, then there’s everything else."[13] Bourbon aficionados have shown up in droves to get a small chance in a lottery to purchase some.[14] It is the bourbon everyone wants, which no one can get; the distilled spirits equivalent of Unobtainium.[11] Except for the lack of supply, it is a marketer's dream.[4][11]

2013 theft[edit]

In 2013 a massive theft of Pappy Van Winkle was reported: 65 three-bottle cases of Pappy Van Winkle 20 Year, and nine three-bottle cases of 13-year-old Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye. "A single bottle of 20-year-old Pappy, as aficionados know it, sold at Bonham's auction in New York . . . for $1,190."[3][6][15] Production is severely limited: about 7,000 cases a year,[6][7][12] as against the 7 million cases produced yearly by Jim Beam.[12] While focusing on employees as an "inside job" is suspected, involving the theft of small quantities at a time over a period of a couple of months,[16] the investigation continues and company representatives declined further comment.[14][17] Police theorize that it took the thief about two months to complete the heist, and note that whoever did it avoided being recorded by security cameras.[12] Authorities are pessimistic about recovering the stolen goods. When interviewed about the case, Franklin County Sheriff Pat Melton said "This is the mac daddy."[13]

Police reported a lead on October 24, as someone, who was videotaped, allegedly attempted to sell a large amount of 20-year-old bourbon to an Elizabethtown liquor store.[18][19][20] The "person of interest" police were searching for in the video footage was then identified as Bardstown High School Principal Chris Pickett, who immediately denied the claim that he ever attempted to sell bourbon to the store.[21] On November 23, Sheriff Melton announced that Pickett had been cleared as a person of interest.[22] Melton also said he would make an important announcement about the investigation on Monday December 2, 2013.[22]

On Monday December 2, Sheriff Melton announced that a $10,000 reward was being offered to anyone who gives information which leads to the conviction of the thief or thieves in the case.[23] $1,000 of this reward money is being offered by Bluegrass Crimestoppers and the other $9,000 is being financed by an anonymous donor.[23]


Van Winkle bourbons have always been made from corn, wheat (instead of traditional rye), and barley malt, and aged in charred oak barrels. Pappy Van Winkle is aged for 15, 20 or 23 years, which is considerably longer than the aging period for most bourbons. The 20 year is bottled at 90.4 U.S. proof (45.2% alcohol by volume)[7] and is described as "intensely fruity."[3] The 15 year is bottled at 107 proof.[24] The 23 year is bottled at 95.6 proof.[3]


Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve has won various awards.[1][25]

Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve 23 Year Old Bourbon was named "Spirit of the Year" for 2010 by Wine & Spirits magazine in its annual buying guide issue.[26]

Winner of the 2006-2007 Golden Icon Award for "Best Whiskey"; the awards are presented annually by Travolta Family Entertainment.[citation needed]

The offering has performed well at spirit ratings competition. The 20 Year Old Special Reserve was recognized with the "Trophy for Worldwide Whisky" and a Best-In-Class Gold Medallion in the International Wine and Spirit Competition for 2008.[27] It received a score of 99 ("superlative") from the Beverage Testing Institute in the same year.[27]

Limited edition decanter[edit]

The Van Winkles released a special limited edition decanter set of Old Rip Van Winkle 23 year old, 114 proof Van Winkle bourbon barreled in the spring of 1986.[28]

In popular culture[edit]

Pappy Van Winkle is now the subject of a clothing line, manufactured in the United States, which was announced in October 2013.[29]

Pappy Van Winkle is mentioned on several episodes[which?] of the 2010 FX television series Justified, and is referenced in the 2011 film Crazy, Stupid, Love as the bourbon Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling) drinks. Pappy Van Winkle is also mentioned several times in the 2013 movie The Internship.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Old Rip Van Winkle
  2. ^ Doll, Jen (28 November 2012). "The Bourbon Everyone Wants But No One Can Get". The Atlantic. Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Gabriel, Trip (October 18, 2013). "The case of the Missing Bourbon". Frankfort, Kentucky: The New York Times. Retrieved October 19, 2013. 
  4. ^ a b Simpson, Connor (October 19, 2013). "Where Did the Missing 65 Cases of Pappy Van Winkle Whiskey Go?". The Atlantic. Retrieved October 21, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Lipman, Linda; Lipman, John. "American Whiskey: Commonwealth Distillery - Where Old Rip Van Winkle Sleeps". American Whiskey. Retrieved October 19, 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c Hall, Gregory A. (October 17, 2013). "Bourbon heist: Pappy Van Winkle stolen in apparent inside job". Louisville Courier Journal. Retrieved October 19, 2013. 
  7. ^ a b c "$26G worth of rare, expensive bourbon swiped from Ky. distillery". Fox News. October 19, 2013. Retrieved October 19, 2013. 
  8. ^ Van Winkle Family Heritage[dead link]
  9. ^ Ellen Jaye, American Whiskey – Ghosts of the Past: Old Fitzgerald – The Stitzel-Weller Distillery – September 14, 2000.
  10. ^ "2013 Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve Could Be Last Of Its Kind". August 31, 2013. Retrieved October 19, 2013. 
  11. ^ a b c Gara, Tom (July 8, 2013). "Pappy Van Winkle, The Bourbon So Popular Even Billionaires Can’t Find It". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved October 27, 2013. 
  12. ^ a b c d Esterl, Mike (October 19, 2013). "Was the great bourbon heist an inside job?" (Video). WSJ Live. Retrieved October 19, 2013. 
  13. ^ a b c "Pappy Van Winkle Stolen: $26,000 Of Beloved Bourbon Taken From Buffalo Trace Distillery". Huffington Post. October 17, 2013. Retrieved October 19, 2013. 
  14. ^ a b Conlon, Kevin (October 17, 2013). "Cops: High-end bourbon heist likely an inside job" (Video). CNN. Retrieved October 19, 2013. 
  15. ^ "Bourbon Heist: Who Stole the Pappy Van Winkle?Fans Buzzing After Batch Worth About $25,000 Taken From Kentucky Distillery". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved October 19, 2013.  (subscription required)
  16. ^ Dickerson, Karma (October 17, 2013). "No Arrests in Theft of Pappy Van Winkle from Ky. Distillery" (Video). Louisville, Kentucky: WHAS-TV. Retrieved October 20, 2013. 
  17. ^ "Search Continues for Stolen Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon". Frankfort, Kentucky: October 18, 2013. Retrieved October 19, 2013. 
  18. ^ "Pappy Van Winkle heist lead: Man wanted to sell large quantity of the bourbon" (Video). Courier-Journal. October 23, 2013. Retrieved October 24, 2013. 
  19. ^ Belcher, Kristina (October 25, 2013). "Liquor store owner shocked man attempted to sell rare bourbon reported stolen: He thought it was a joke at first". State Journal (Frankfort, Kentucky). Retrieved October 25, 2013. 
  20. ^ Fischer, Tom (October 24, 2013). "Interview with Liquor Store Where Pappy Suspect Was Caught on Camera" (Audio). Retrieved October 25, 2013. 
  21. ^ "Bardstown High School Principal Identified as Man in Pappy Surveillance Video". October 28, 2013. 
  22. ^ a b "Updates in Pappy Theft, Bardstown High School Principal No Longer Person of Interview". November 23, 2013. 
  23. ^ a b "10,000 Reward Offered in Pappy Theft Case". December 2, 2013. 
  24. ^ "Pappy Van Winkle 15 year old". Bourbon Enthusiast. Retrieved October 20, 2013. 
  25. ^ "Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve 20yr". Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery. Retrieved October 19, 2013. 
  26. ^ "Pappy Van Winkle 23 Year Old Bourbon Named "Spirit of the Year"". Best Brands. Retrieved October 19, 2013. 
  27. ^ a b "Pappy Van Winkle's 20yr 90.4 Proof Family Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey; Pappy Van Winkles 20yr Bourbon". Retrieved October 19, 2013. 
  28. ^ blogofbourbon (May 24, 2013). "Old Rip Van Winkle 23 Year Decanter at Bull & Bush". Retrieved October 22, 2013. 
  29. ^ Schuman, Alex (October 19, 2013). "Popular bourbon Pappy Van Winkle announces clothing line". Crestwoood, Kentucky: WHAS-TV. Retrieved October 20, 2013. 

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